Ah, the Four Elements. Pagans may not agree on much, but when it comes to these metaphysical archetypes, we’re all on the same page. You literally can’t get more foundational than Earth, Air, Fire, and Water — of this, there is no doubt.
So you know what? Let’s doubt the shit out of them.
The Greek poet/philosopher Empedocles is credited with originating the concept of the Four Elements as objective states of matter: That is, everything in existence can be broken down into the fundamentals of Earth (solid), Air (gas), Fire (plasma/energy), and Water (liquid), which can change, combine, or revert to their original forms based on the effects of two opposing forces, Love (attraction) and Strife (repulsion). This perception of the Four Elements has permeated philosophical, medical, and psychological thought for centuries, influencing everything from the Hippocratic theory of the Four Humours to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Most recently — and by “recently,” I mean the late 1800s — the Four Elements were incorporated into the Western Mystery Tradition, eventually finding their way into modern Paganism.
Empedocles personified the Elements as Hera, Zeus, Hades, and Nestis [Persephone], and he referred to Love and Strife as Philotes and Neikos respectively. According to Hesiod, Philotes was the goddess of affection, friendship and sex (the aggressively vegetarian Empedocles also swore up and down that She abhorred the taking of life), whereas the Neikea were gods of argument and the children of Eris. Philotes, then, was the spirit behind all good things, and the Neikea — among them Hardship, Forgetfulness, Starvation, Battles, Manslaughter, Lies, Disputes, Anarchy, and Ruin — were the causes of all bad things.
On that note, and with the understanding that the Classical Greeks did not have the benefit of being influenced by the Classical Greeks…
… we are hereby tossing the Four Elements out the door, changing the locks, and once again cracking open the Principia Discordia:
One day Mal-2 [i.e. Malaclypse the Younger] consulted his Pineal Gland and asked Eris if She really created all of those terrible things. She told him that She had always liked the Old Greeks, but that they cannot be trusted with historic matters. “They were,” She added, “victims of indigestion, you know.”
The Principia does confirm that Eris had children, although they were much different creatures than what Hesiod described (mainly because they weren’t creatures). Let’s dive back in and take a look at Discordian cosmogony:
In the beginning there was VOID, who had two daughters; one (the smaller) was that of BEING, named ERIS, and one (the larger) was of NON-BEING, named ANERIS. (To this day, the fundamental truth that Aneris is the larger is apparent to all who compare the great number of things that do not exist with the comparatively small number of things that do exist.)
Eris had been born pregnant, and after 55 years (Goddesses have an unusually long gestation period– longer even than elephants), Her pregnancy bore the fruits of many things. These things were composed of the Five Basic Elements, SWEET, BOOM, PUNGENT, PRICKLE, and ORANGE. Aneris, however, had been created sterile. When she saw Eris enjoying Herself so greatly with all of the existent things She had borne, Aneris became jealous and finally one day she stole some existent things and changed them into non- existent things and claimed them as her own children.
This deeply hurt Eris, who felt that Her sister was unjust (being so much larger anyway) to deny Her her small joy. And so She made herself swell again to bear more things. And She swore that no matter how many of her begotten that Aneris would steal, She would beget more. And, in return, Aneris swore that no matter how many existent things Eris brought forth, she would eventually find them and turn them into non-existent things for her own. (And to this day, things appear and disappear in this very manner.)
Right away, we’ve got a plot twist: in Discordian thought, Eris takes the creative Philotes role, while Aneris acts as the destructive Neikea. But past that, we’ve got these new Five Basic Elements to contend with. What do we do with them now that we’re aware of them?
The Word of the Day Is “Somatosensation”
The most obvious connection we can make is between the Discordian Elements and the five senses: They represent everything we can taste, hear, smell, touch, and see.
- Sweet – Gustation
- Boom – Audition
- Pungent – Olfaction
- Prickle – Somatosensation
- Orange – Vision
So that gives us a good starting point, and the logical next step would be to see what other correspondences we can come up with. In fact, the Apocrypha Discordia, which is probably the closest thing the Principia has to a sequel, brings the classical Elements back into the fold and suggests the following:
- Sweet – Water
- Boom – Air
- Pungent – Spirit
- Prickle – Earth
- Orange – Fire
These are certainly workable in a traditional paradigm. But, since we made such a stink about stepping away from the Four Elements, and because we’re all about Chaos Magic in these here parts, let’s apply our principles, avoid the standardized Pagan dogma, and diversify our approaches.
This Is Where You Guys Come In
I’ve got my own perceptions of the Discordian Elements, but I want to hear how you would use them. What would be the purpose of a Boom spell? How would you invoke Orange? What would a public Prickle ritual look like?
Leave a comment, DM me on Twitter, Facebook, or the Gram, or shoot an email to tmf at fivefoldlaw dot com with your ideas on the magical applications of the Discordian Elements. Get as weird as you want with it, I’ll compile my favorites in an upcoming post, and we’ll make some magnificent Chaos together.